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Lack of reading proficiency in local students raises concerns

May 20, 2011 (San Diego) – If we improve schools, we improve communities. If we improve communities, we improve schools.


These are key findings in United Way of San Diego County’s education report released May 14. Titled “Voices for the Common Good: San Diego Speaks Out on Education,” the report is a comprehensive compilation of everyday San Diegans’ opinions and aspirations for their communities, for education and the challenges they see in helping our children reach their full potential.


Over the past year, UWSD has been listening to the community to determine what education looks like in San Diego County. The organization has talked with education experts; conducted “community conversations” across the county, from Chula Vista to Oceanside, El Cajon to Hillcrest; and commissioned research studies from the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit Research at University of San Diego.


“On average, a third of San Diego County fourth graders cannot read proficiently. In some parts of the county the number is as high as 85 percent. And in high school, over 8,800 students in our county drop out every year,” said Karen Sprigle, UWSD senior vice president. “Yes, there is an education crisis in our county, as well as nationally, but more importantly, San Diegans want to do something about it and believe the whole community needs to be involved.”


The release of UWSD’s education report marks the beginning of its initiative to mobilize all San Diegans with a call-to-action to support kids’ education. “Voices for the Common Good” highlights the voices of people who are often left unheard in the conversation on education. The report is not meant to be a research or academic report. It is meant to engage, involve and inspire.


“As part of United Way’s national education effort, I urge all San Diegans to become tutors, mentors, readers and coaches. We all have something to contribute. In June, we will be announcing new opportunities for involvement,” added Sprigle. “We’re at a turning point in education, where we can make a real – and lasting – impact.”


Key report findings include:


o People believe that good schools and good communities go hand in hand.
When people lack jobs that provide a stable, living wage, it affects their ability to participate fully in children’s education and the community’s ability to main¬tain great schools.

– more –
o People feel disconnected from schools.
Parents and teachers, along with the greater community, struggle to communicate and interact with each other, although there is a strong desire to connect from all sides.

o Kids need role models just as much as academic support.
Many people believe the entire community needs to help instill values, not just academics, in local youth.

o We’re at a turning point in education.
The community is poised and ready to take action. People also see a need for “real world” education.

o Schools can’t do it alone – the whole community must be involved.
Preparing San Diego’s children for the future requires the public’s involvement, beyond teachers and parents.

o Military families face special challenges.
Kids in military families face additional challenges because of constant relocation.

o Immigrants and refugees feel more disconnected.

In San Diego, the local immigrant and refugee communities have difficulty engaging, often due to language and cultural barriers.


From May 14 to 29, UWSD’s “Kids Speak Up” photo exhibit offers a kids-eye view of what’s currently missing from the picture and what we can all do about it. It is the third photo exhibit of UWSD’s 90th anniversary celebration. Free and open to the public all day, the oversized photo installation featuring San Diego kids is located at Mission Valley Mall (Plaza in front of Nordstrom Rack and Michael’s), 1640 Camino Del Rio North (off Camino de la Reina), San Diego, CA 92108. Additional information on how to get involved will be available onsite.


The photography featured in the exhibit is by Michael Spengler of Studio M La Jolla and Katie Gardner of Katie Gardner Photography, with exhibit design by Don Hollis of Hollis Brand Culture.



Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, United Way of San Diego County (UWSD) is a nonprofit organization tha seeks to improve lives and create long-lasting change. The United Way movement addresses the underlying causes of problems and mobilizes the community to solve education, income and health issues. LIVE UNITED is a call to action for everyone to become part of the change. UWSD’s 90th anniversary celebration will include a variety of events to celebrate the spirit of Living United and advancing the common good in San Diego. To learn more or to donate, visit http://www.uwsd.org.



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